I don’t know about you, but the rainbow-filled logos and campaigns aren’t cutting it for me this Pride month.
In the context of so much vitriol and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the U.S., particularly against the trans community, brands are treading incredibly shaky ground no matter how they decide to approach the annual celebration.
Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment is undeniably on the rise in the U.S., where more than 240 bills designed to limit the community’s rights were introduced by lawmakers this year in the so-called “land of the free.” A special brand of hate has been directed toward the trans community, which is at the center of a majority of these bills.
Marketers, which have taken Pride from a commemoration of the brave men and women of the Stonewall Riots and commercialized it into a must-acknowledge event on the corporate calendar, are now waffling on the support and commitments they pledged to the LGBTQ+ community so earnestly not too long ago.
The tension came to a head with the Bud Light and Dylan Mulvaney controversy this spring, when the brewer walked back a partnership with the trans influencer after receiving backlash from a small, conservative subset of its consumer base. It’s a faux pas the brewer is still trying to recover from, and a case study in exactly what brands preach not to do when challenged on their values: walk back, cowering to a small but vocal minority.
Now that the dominoes have begun to fall, they can’t seem to stop. Most recently, Target pulled Pride and trans collections from its stores after radicalists made threats to its workers, walking back years of LGBTQ+ support. The fallout has even gone so far as to implicate Chick-Fil-A, a company so notoriously conservative and anti-gay, simply for employing a chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.
Brands have spent the past three years, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, preaching the importance of purpose, ESG and corporate citizenship. Now those statements are being put to the test.
For marketers under immense scrutiny to perform under increasingly difficult circumstances and shrinking tenures, the pressure to get it right is immense — and sometimes, that kind of pressure can lead to inaction, or fumbles.
But this issue — this systematic, uninformed and backwards stripping of innocent people's fundamental rights — goes beyond spreadsheets and KPIs. It supersedes key demographics and observational data and whatever other scientific-sounding justifications marketers put behind their decisions.
It's not about pleasing everybody. It comes down to being on the right side of history — the one that supports fundamental rights and doesn’t pander to disproportionately loud and hateful bullies.
And if you don’t really care too much about that (which is unfortunate, but I digress) — do it for your business — a record 7.1% of Americans identify as LGBTQ+ today, and the population is only growing, representing one in six Gen Zers.
So don’t be the next Bud Light. Don’t turn your backs on the LGBTQ+ community.
They — and their allies — won’t forget it.